Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

1 in 5 Working in Regional Health Care; Report Sees Bright Future for Industry, but Shands Exec Still Warns of Economic Forces

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

1 in 5 Working in Regional Health Care; Report Sees Bright Future for Industry, but Shands Exec Still Warns of Economic Forces

Article excerpt

Byline: David Bauerlein

Northeast Florida health care executives, bolstered by a report showing health care accounts for almost 13 percent of the local workforce, said Wednesday they expect medical spending on patients, research and training will continue to rise in the future.

The report on the economic impact of health care and the bioscience industry was released Wednesday during the fifth annual Caring Community Conference at the University of North Florida.

When employment in health care-related enterprises such as health insurance companies and production of medical devices are added to the equation, health care and bioscience account for one out of every five jobs in the area, according to the report.

University of North Florida economics professor Paul Mason, who compiled the report, said based on the industry's track record and ability to avoid a downturn in the recession gives it a "very bright" outlook in Northeast Florida.

Hospital executives generally shared the optimism. But health care doesn't operate "in a vacuum" and it can be affected by global economic forces, for better and worse, said David Guzick, senior vice president for health affairs for the University of Florida.

"There's a state context, a national context and a global context," said Guzick, who also is president of the UF & Shands Health Care system, which operates hospitals in Jacksonville and Gainesville.

A default by Greece on its debt, for instance, would carry over to U.S. banks, Guzick said. He added that health care spending in the United States has risen much faster than in other countries, but the future could bring more efforts to control the cost of health care.

Still, health care and bioscience offer the best prospect for Jacksonville adding jobs that pay above-average wages and raise the standard of living for the region, said Henry Luke, president of Luke Planning in Jacksonville. He helped Jacksonville craft its Blueprint for Prosperity strategy in 2005.

A study done earlier this year by Jacksonville Community Council Inc. concluded health care and transportation logistics, which would include Jacksonville's port, offer the best path to recovery from the recession. …

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